Musicology in the Bard Music Program is devoted to learning the repertoire of a thousand years’ worth of music in relation to its social context.
The base of the musicology curriculum is a four-semester sequence covering the history of music: Medieval and Renaissance; Baroque and Classical; Romantic; and Music since 1910. In addition, there are more specialized courses, which in recent years have included Mozart and His World; Music in Shakespeare / Shakespeare in Music; Music and Politics through the Ages; Mozart’s Operas and the Enlightenment; Beethoven and His World; Debussy and Ravel; The Interaction between Music and Film; Bartók and Stravinsky; Gustav Mahler and His World; Death Set to Music; High and Low / Tensions and Agreements; and many others.
It is possible for a student to major in musicology, usually by writing a Senior Project paper (minimum 70 pages) on a specific historical phenomenon, a composer, a repertoire of music, or a social scene in which a kind of music arose. Recent Senior Projects have included papers on Japanese pop music, third-stream jazz, and Nabokov and Stravinsky, among others.
James Bagwell maintains an active international schedule as a conductor of choral, operatic, and orchestral music. He was recently named associate conductor of The Orchestra Now and was appointed principal guest conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra in 2009. He has led both ensembles in concerts at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. He served as music director of The Collegiate Chorale from 2009 to 2015. Highlights included conducting rarely performed operas at Carnegie Hall, including Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, Rossini’s Möise et Pharaon, and Boito’s Mefistofele. He conducted the New York premiere of Philip Glass’s Toltec Symphony and Osvaldo Golijov’s Oceana at Carnegie Hall. His performance of Kurt Weill’s Knickerbocker Holiday at Alice Tully Hall was recorded live for Gaslight Records and is the only complete recording of the work. He has collaborated since 2011 with singer and composer Natalie Merchant, conducting orchestras across the country, including the San Francisco and Seattle Symphonies. Other recent performances include Glass’s Another Look at Harmony at the Park Avenue Armory and leading the Little Opera Theatre of New York’s production of Rossini’s Opportunity Makes the Thief.
Bagwell has trained choruses for American and international orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, NHK Symphony (Japan), St. Petersburg Symphony, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. He has worked with such noted conductors as Charles Dutoit, Andris Nelsons, Alan Gilbert, Leonard Slatkin, Gianandrea Noseda, Valery Gergiev, Yannik Nézet-Séguin, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Lorin Maazel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas, Louis Langrée, Leon Botstein, Ivan Fischer, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Raymond Leppard, James Conlon, Jesús López-Cobos, Erich Kunzel, Leon Fleischer, and Robert Shaw. Bagwell prepared The Collegiate Chorale for numerous concerts at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland and for programs with the Israel Philharmonic in Israel and at the Salzburg Festival. He has also prepared the Concert Chorale of New York for performances with the New York Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Mostly Mozart Festival (broadcast nationally on Live from Lincoln Center)—all in David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center.
Since 2003 Bagwell has been director of choruses for the Bard Music Festival, conducting and preparing choral works during the summer festival at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College. In 2011 and 2012 he conducted the Amici New York Orchestra at the OK Mozart Festival, and in December 2014 made his second appearance with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in a highly acclaimed performance of Messiah. Bagwell conducted some 25 productions as music director of Light Opera Oklahoma, including Bernstein’s Candide, Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, and Lehár’s The Merry Widow, among others. At Bard SummerScape he has lead various theatrical works, most notably Copland’s The Tender Land, which received glowing praise from the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Opera News. He frequently appears as guest conductor for orchestras around the country and abroad, including the Jerusalem Symphony, Tulsa Symphony, the Interlochen Music Festival, and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. From 2005 to 2010 he was music director of the Dessoff Choirs in New York, which under his leadership made numerous appearances at Carnegie Hall in addition to their regular season. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College, Florida State University, and Indiana University. Bagwell is professor of music at Bard College and director of performance studies in the Bard College Conservatory of Music. In addition, he codirects the Graduate Conducting Program in the Conservatory.
Leon Botstein was born in Zurich, the youngest son of two eminent Polish Jewish physicians who left Poland, studied medicine in Switzerland, and became members of the faculty of the University of Zurich. After waiting for more than 12 years for a visa to emigrate to the United States, his parents moved to New York and ultimately joined the faculty at Montefiore Hospital and the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, where they remained for the rest of their careers. Unlike his older brother and sister, Botstein chose not to go into medicine or science, but instead into the arts and humanities. He studied violin with the legendary Roman Totenberg in the United States and during the summers studied with faculty from the National Conservatory in Mexico City, where other surviving family members had settled. He attended the High School of Music and Art and graduated at the age of 16. He then attended the University of Chicago, where he graduated in history and philosophy. His music teachers there included the Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Richard Wernick and the eminent musicologists H. Colin Slim and Howard Mayer Brown. While at Chicago, he was concertmaster and assistant conductor of the University Orchestra, and founded Chicago University’s chamber orchestra, which still exists today. In 1967 Botstein studied at Tanglewood and then went on to graduate school at Harvard, where he completed a PhD in history under David Landes, writing on musical life of Vienna in the 19th and early 20th centuries. At Harvard, he was the assistant conductor of the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra and conductor of the Doctors’ Orchestra of Boston, an ensemble of conservatory students and medical professionals that performed at the Gardner Museum. In 1969 he won a Sloan Foundation Fellowship that brought him to New York City, where he worked as special assistant to the president of the Board of Education. A year later, he was recruited to become president of an experimental college, Franconia, which operated from 1964 to 1978 in New Hampshire. At age 23 he became the youngest college president in history. While at Franconia he founded the White Mountain Music Festival, an offshoot of which is still operating.
In 1975 Botstein left Franconia to become the president of Bard College. Under his leadership, Bard has developed into a distinctive liberal arts institution offering a vast range of undergraduate and graduate programs. In 1981, in the wake of the death of his second child, an 8-year-old daughter, he decided to return in earnest to the career in music he had begun in Chicago. He became principal conductor of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and led its chamber orchestra series. In 1992 he was named music director of the American Symphony Orchestra (ASO), a position he still holds. As director, he has transformed the ASO into a pioneer, presenting great works that have long been ignored by history, alongside the acknowledged masterpieces, in concerts curated thematically, using history and ideas to catch the imagination of a wider and nontraditional audience. In 1990 Botstein established the internationally admired Bard Music Festival, the success of which helped in the development of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, a multifunctional facility designed by Frank Gehry on the Bard College campus. Opening in 2003, the Fisher Center inspired a programmatic expansion, Bard SummerScape, that includes opera, dance, theater, and cabaret over six weeks every summer. These events, as well as his concerts in the ASO’s Carnegie Hall series, embody his guiding principle of offering access and understanding of music by placing it in its historical context and connecting it to other disciplines and interests.
Botstein has always sought to combine music and scholarship in a way that enlightens not only written exposition but also performance. His body of writings includes books on education, history, and music, in both German and English, with an acclaimed series of essays published as part of Princeton University Press’s annual Bard Music Festival volume. He has curated exhibits for the Jewish Museum in Vienna. Since 1990 he has been editor of the Musical Quarterly, one of the most distinguished academic journals of music. In 2003 Botstein became music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (JSO). His concerts with the JSO were broadcast in regular series across the United States and Europe, and he led the orchestra on several tours, including twice across the United States and to Leipzig to open the 2009 Bach Festival with a performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah in Bach’s Thomaskirche. In 2011 he stepped down from that post and became the JSO’s conductor laureate. While in Israel, Botstein formed a partnership between Al-Quds University and Bard College that offers an honors liberal arts college and a master’s degree training program for high school teachers. Under his leadership, and in collaboration with the University of St. Petersburg, Bard established the first liberal arts college for Russian students in Russia. Bard’s acclaimed Prison Initiative, which offers degrees to prisoners, has become a model for prisons across the United States. Bard’s High School Early Colleges, which are a growing national movement, were singled out by President Barack Obama as exemplary of what American education should accomplish. In 2012 Longy School of Music in Boston became part of Bard College, adding its graduate programs to Bard’s undergraduate Music Program. Botstein has led Bard’s own renowned Conservatory Orchestra on tours of China, Eastern Europe, and Cuba. In addition, he has led the Youth Orchestra of Caracas (YOC) in Venezuela and on tour to Japan. Through his experience with YOC and El Sistema in Venezuela, he helped found Take a Stand, a national music program in the United States based on the principles of El Sistema. In 2015 Botstein founded The Orchestra Now (TŌN), an innovative preprofessional orchestra and master’s degree program at Bard College that is preparing a new generation of musicians to break down barriers between modern audiences and great orchestral music of the past and present. TŌN performs a regular concert series at Bard’s Fisher Center and also takes part in Bard Music Festival concerts. The orchestra also performs multiple concerts each season at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and offers complimentary concerts at venues across the boroughs of New York City in the Around Town series. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art TŌN joins Botstein in the series Sight and Sound as he explores the places where musical and visual expression meet, pairing orchestral works with masterpieces from the museum’s collection.
In 2018 Botstein began his highly anticipated tenure as artistic director at Grafenegg in Austria, where his maverick, narrative-driven programming has attracted star collaborators, including Thomas Hampson. Botstein has guest conducted many orchestras around the world, among them the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Aspen Music Festival, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Mariinsky Theatre, Russian National Orchestra in Moscow, Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Taipei Symphony, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, and Sinfónica Juvenil de Caracas in Venezuela, and scores of other orchestras and ensembles. He appears in numerous recordings, including several operas by Strauss (including Die ägyptische Helena with Deborah Voigt), as well as works by Shostakovich, Hartmann, Reger, Copland, Chausson, Liszt, Perle, Mendelssohn, and Bruckner, among others. His recording of Popov and Shostakovich with the London Symphony Orchestra was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Orchestral Performance. Leon Botstein’s entire life and his work in all its aspects is devoted to one mission: the improvement of peoples’ lives through education and exposure to the arts. A child of a generation that experienced extreme prejudice and barbarity, his firm belief that a better and more equitable world can be created by cultivating the life of the mind remains the principle that informs and connects all of his performances, writing, public service, and teaching. “When it comes to ambitious, fearless orchestral programming there is Leon Botstein . . . and then there is everyone else.” —Steve Smith, The New York Times
Kyle Gann, born in 1955 in Dallas, Texas, is a composer and was new-music critic for the Village Voice from 1986 to 2005. A prolific writer of books on American music, and one of the few professors in America to teach a course on microtonality, he is the author of The Music of Conlon Nancarrow, American Music in the 20th Century, Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice, No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4’33”, Robert Ashley, Charles Ives’s Concord: Essays after a Sonata, and The Arithmetic of Listening: Tuning Theory and History for the Impractical Musician (forthcoming). Gann studied composition with Ben Johnston, Morton Feldman, and Peter Gena, and his music is often microtonal, using up to 37 pitches per octave. His major works include Sunken City, a piano concerto commissioned by the Orkest de Volharding in Amsterdam; Transcendental Sonnets, a 35-minute work for choir and orchestra commissioned by the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir; Custer and Sitting Bull, a microtonal, one-man music theater work he’s performed more than 30 times from Brisbane to Moscow; The Planets, commissioned by the Relache ensemble; and Hyperchromatica, a 17-movement work for three retuned, computer-driven pianos. In 2007 choreographer Mark Morris made a large-ensemble dance, Looky, from five of Gann’s works for Disklavier (computerized player piano). His writings include over 3,500 articles for more than 45 publications, including scholarly articles on La Monte Young, Henry Cowell, John Cage, Edgard Varese, Earle Brown, Philip Glass, Ben Johnston, Mikel Rouse, John Luther Adams, Dennis Johnson, and other American composers. He was awarded the Peabody Award (2003), the Stagebill Award (1999) and the Deems-Taylor Award (2003) for his writings. His music is available on the New Albion, New World, Cold Blue, Lovely Music, Mode, Other Minds, Meyer Media, New Tone, Microfest, and Monroe Street labels. In 2003 the American Music Center awarded Gann its Letter of Distinction, along with Steve Reich, Wayne Shorter, and George Crumb. At Bard since 1997.
Christopher H. Gibbs came to Bard as the James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Music in 2002. He teaches music history in both the College and Conservatory or Music. He serves as the artistic codirector, together with Leon Botstein, of the Bard Music Festival, and is executive editor of the Musical Quarterly, the oldest music history journal in America. Before joining the Bard faculty he taught at Columbia University, Haverford College, and the University at Buffalo. Gibbs edited The Cambridge Companion to Schubert (Cambridge University Press, 1997) and is the author of The Life of Schubert (Cambridge University Press, 2000), which has been translated into five languages. He is coeditor, with Dana Gooley, of Franz Liszt and His World (Princeton University Press, 2006) and, with Morten Solvik, of Franz Schubert and His World (Princeton University Press, 2014). He coauthored, with Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music, College Edition (Oxford University Press, 2013; second edition, 2018). Gibbs is a recipient of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award and was a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies in 1999–2000. He has written for many scholarly and general-interest publications, including 19th-Century Music, Schubert durch die Brille, Current Musicology, the Opera Quarterly, Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He has contributed to numerous anthologies and reference works, including the revised edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Gibbs is particularly devoted to “public musicology.” As a program annotator and lecturer, he works with many of the country’s leading musical institutions. He was the musicological director for the final three years of the acclaimed Schubertiade at the 92nd Street Y in New York City and served as musicological adviser for the bicentennial Schubert Festival at Carnegie Hall. For the past 17 seasons, he has written the program notes for the Philadelphia Orchestra. He gives frequent preconcert lectures for that orchestra, as well as for the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, New York City Opera, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Great Performers at Lincoln Center, Music@Menlo, and other organizations. Gibbs teaches a broad range of music history courses at all levels at Bard and is particularly interested in opera; music in Vienna; Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Mahler; critical theory; and psychoanalysis.
Peter Laki, a native of Budapest, Hungary, graduated from the Franz Liszt Academy (now University) of Music in 1979 and received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989. He served as program annotator of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1990 to 2002 and taught courses at Case Western Reserve University, Kent State University, John Carroll University, and Oberlin College between 1990 and 2007. Since 2007 he has served as visiting associate professor at Bard College. Laki is the author of numerous musicological articles and the editor of Bartók and His World, a collection of essays and documents published by Princeton University Press in 1995. He writes program notes for orchestras and performing arts organizations around the country and has lectured at many international conferences.